Abstract:
Stochastic semiclassical gravity is a theory for the interaction of gravity with quantum matter fields which goes beyond the semiclassical limit. The theory predicts stochastic fluctuations of the classical gravitational field induced by the quantum fluctuations of the stress energy tensor of the matter fields. Here we use an axiomatic approach to introduce the Einstein-Langevin equations as the consistent set of dynamical equations for a first order perturbative correction to semiclassical gravity and review their main features. We then describe the application of the theory in a simple chaotic inflationary model, where the fluctuations of the inflaton field induce stochastic fluctuations in the gravitational field. The correlation functions for these gravitational fluctuations lead to an almost Harrison-Zel'dovich scale invariant spectrum at large scales, in agreement with the standard theories for structure formation. A summary of recent results and other applications of the theory is also given.

Abstract:
A semiclassical cosmological model is considered which consists of a closed Friedmann-Robertson-Walker in the presence of a cosmological constant, which mimics the effect of an inflaton field, and a massless, non-conformally coupled quantum scalar field. We show that the back-reaction of the quantum field, which consists basically of a non local term due to gravitational particle creation and a noise term induced by the quantum fluctuations of the field, are able to drive the cosmological scale factor over the barrier of the classical potential so that if the universe starts near zero scale factor (initial singularity) it can make the transition to an exponentially expanding de Sitter phase. We compute the probability of this transition and it turns out to be comparable with the probability that the universe tunnels from "nothing" into an inflationary stage in quantum cosmology. This suggests that in the presence of matter fields the back-reaction on the spacetime should not be neglected in quantum cosmology.

Abstract:
The two-point function characterizing the stress tensor fluctuations of a massless minimally coupled field for an invariant vacuum state in de Sitter spacetime is discussed. This two-point function is explicitly computed for spacelike separated points which are geodesically connected. We show that these fluctuations are as important as the expectation value of the stress tensor itself. These quantum field fluctuations will induce fluctuations in the geometry of de Sitter spacetime. This paper is a first step towards the computation of such metric fluctuations, which may be of interest for large-scale structure formation in cosmology. The relevance of our results in this context is briefly discussed.

Abstract:
In the first part of this paper, we show that the semiclassical Einstein-Langevin equation, introduced in the framework of a stochastic generalization of semiclassical gravity to describe the back reaction of matter stress-energy fluctuations, can be formally derived from a functional method based on the influence functional of Feynman and Vernon. In the second part, we derive a number of results for background solutions of semiclassical gravity consisting of stationary and conformally stationary spacetimes and scalar fields in thermal equilibrium states. For these cases, fluctuation-dissipation relations are derived. We also show that particle creation is related to the vacuum stress-energy fluctuations and that it is enhanced by the presence of stochastic metric fluctuations.

Abstract:
The in-in effective action formalism is used to derive the semiclassical correction to Einstein's equations due to a massless scalar quantum field conformally coupled to small gravitational perturbations in spatially flat cosmological models. The vacuum expectation value of the stress tensor of the quantum field is directly derived from the renormalized in-in effective action. The usual in-out effective action is also discussed and it is used to compute the probability of particle creation. As one application, the stress tensor of a scalar field around a static cosmic string is derived and the backreaction effect on the gravitational field of the string is discussed.

Abstract:
Semiclassical Einstein-Langevin equations for arbitrary small metric perturbations conformally coupled to a massless quantum scalar field in a spatially flat cosmological background are derived. Use is made of the fact that for this problem the in-in or closed time path effective action is simply related to the Feynman and Vernon influence functional which describes the effect of the ``environment'', the quantum field which is coarse grained here, on the ``system'', the gravitational field which is the field of interest. This leads to identify the dissipation and noise kernels in the in-in effective action, and to derive a fluctuation-dissipation relation. A tensorial Gaussian stochastic source which couples to the Weyl tensor of the spacetime metric is seen to modify the usual semiclassical equations which can be viewed now as mean field equations. As a simple application we derive the correlation functions of the stochastic metric fluctuations produced in a flat spacetime with small metric perturbations due to the quantum fluctuations of the matter field coupled to these perturbations.

Abstract:
We use wave packet mode quantization to compute the creation of massless scalar quantum particles in a colliding plane wave spacetime. The background spacetime represents the collision of two gravitational shock waves followed by trailing gravitational radiation which focus into a Killing-Cauchy horizon. The use of wave packet modes simplifies the problem of mode propagation through the different spacetime regions which was previously studied with the use of monocromatic modes. It is found that the number of particles created in a given wave packet mode has a thermal spectrum with a temperature which is inversely proportional to the focusing time of the plane waves and which depends on the mode trajectory.

Abstract:
The Einstein-Langevin equation is a perturbative correction to the semiclassical Einstein equation which takes into account the lowest order quantum fluctuations of the matter stress-energy tensor. It predicts classical stochastic fluctuations in the metric field which may describe some of the remnant gravitational fluctuations after the process of environment induced decoherence driving the quantum to classical transition of gravity.

Abstract:
Assuming that the mechanism proposed by Gell-Mann and Hartle works as a mechanism for decoherence and classicalization of the metric field, we formally derive the form of an effective theory for the gravitational field in a semiclassical regime. This effective theory takes the form of the usual semiclassical theory of gravity, based on the semiclassical Einstein equation, plus a stochastic correction which accounts for the back reaction of the lowest order matter stress-energy fluctuations.

Abstract:
The semiclassical Einstein-Langevin equations which describe the dynamics of stochastic perturbations of the metric induced by quantum stress-energy fluctuations of matter fields in a given state are considered on the background of the ground state of semiclassical gravity, namely, Minkowski spacetime and a scalar field in its vacuum state. The relevant equations are explicitly derived for massless and massive fields arbitrarily coupled to the curvature. In doing so, some semiclassical results, such as the expectation value of the stress-energy tensor to linear order in the metric perturbations and particle creation effects, are obtained. We then solve the equations and compute the two-point correlation functions for the linearized Einstein tensor and for the metric perturbations. In the conformal field case, explicit results are obtained. These results hint that gravitational fluctuations in stochastic semiclassical gravity have a ``non-perturbative'' behavior in some characteristic correlation lengths.